Coronavirus Scare Produces State Tourney Chaos

Hackettstown and Manasquan Withdraw from State Tournament While Egg Harbor HS Decides Not to Host Group IV State Semi

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—It is March Madness. Not the kind that we saw unfold in the moments right after Yathin Vemula’s game winning shot for South Brunswick against Marlboro in the 2020 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 Championship on Tuesday night in Marlboro.

Instead it is the global chaos that has been produced by the Coronavirus pandemic, which was recently declared as one by the World Health Organization earlier this week, although by definition, the deadly virus outbreak that began in China at the end of 2019, had already technically reached the criteria of being one long before the WHO’s declaration.

Over the last 18 hours or so, the situation with the Coronavirus in the United States itself has taken a drastic turn. And why was that? It wasn’t because the federal government decided to take clear and direct action. Rather, it was the NBA of all organizational bodies to do so. On Wednesday night, a player on the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus. Then, this morning, another Utah player, Donovan Mitchell tested positive according to ESPN.

This all has come on the heels of renowned actor, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson also tested positive for the Coronavirus while in Australia. Keep in mind everyone this about Australia: It is located in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is still technically summer until March 21st or so. Australia has also had tremendous heat this summer resulting in devastating wildfires throughout the country. According to the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, this summer was the second hottest on record.

What this Australian anecdote means is that, the onset of spring, and later the arrival of summer may not necessarily spell the end of this threat. The NBA responded to the Utah situation last night by taking the bold action of suspending the season for now. After that, other dominoes started to fall. The latest being the MLB deciding to push the start of the 2020 season back two weeks. The NHL suspended play on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the week, the Ivy League took criticism from coaches of member schools for postponing its tournament.

Now, the Ivy League officials are looking more like the smart ones now that the Power 5 conferences as well as the Atlantic-10, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, and Western Athletic Conference have all decided to cancel their respective tournaments. The UEFA also postponed Champions League Round of 16 games between Manchester City and Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon.

The NCAA had decided to proceed with its annual tradition of March Madness, but without the fans attending the games. Games would be televised. However, even that stance has taken criticism from the likes of Charles Barkley and former St. Joseph’s alum and ESPN analyst Jay Williams. The chaos has even come home to New Jersey High School Sports with the boys and girls basketball state tournaments entering their final stages, and now the question becomes, whether they will be cancelled as well.

Last night GMC Hoops e-mailed Egg Harbor Township AD, Mike Pellegrino, to inform him that we were planning to cover the Group 4 State Semifinal between South Brunswick and Atlantic City on Thursday. No response was given to that e-mail, and we later learned that Egg Harbor Township High School had decided not to host the Group 4 State Semifinal between the South Jersey champion, Atlantic City, and the Central Jersey, champion, South Brunswick. This came on the heels of Wednesday’s decision by Rutgers University not to hold the Boys Public State Championships this coming Sunday.

The NJSIAA then announced that the Public and Non-Public Boys Games would be held instead at Phillipsburg High School on Saturday and Sunday. However, over just the past few hours on Thursday afternoon, Hackettstown’s boys basketball team, which was scheduled to take on Ramsey in one of the two Group 2 State Semifinals, has decided to withdraw from the state tournament due to the coronavirus fears. South Brunswick announced that while it was not withdrawing from the state tournament, it felt that the game should be held off until “the health and safety information is provided. We want to make sure our student athletes and fans are safe.”

While the NJSIAA has stated that it will not postpone the game, South Brunswick has decided not to play in the Group 4 State Semifinal since it is “in disagreement and hoping safer minds prevail and the decision be overturned.” Meanwhile, the other Group 4 State Semifinal game set for this evening at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth between the North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 Champion, Elizabeth and Paterson Kennedy was still on as of this morning, and the contest between Manasquan and Camden in the other Group 2 State Semifinal was apparently moved to Toms River earlier this afternoon, but as of about a half an hour before this article was written, the Manasquan School District decided to withdraw from the state tournament.

As far as the decision to continue with playing the state tournament is concerned, GMC Hoops thinks we need to ask ourselves this question, are the young men and women playing in these games student athletes, or athlete students? We believe that once people understand how those words should be ordered (we believe student athletes is the correct one by the way), then the decision to continue to play these games should be an easy call to make. With some school districts already deciding to cancel classes and make preparations to have students take classes online at home, and with the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy even announcing the recommendation that all public gatherings of 250 people be cancelled.

Another thing to consider is some of the conversations people are having at their jobs. There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion on what to do regarding this issue. These people are adults, and even they aren’t sure if they should continue coming into work everyday or staying home, and working from there. Some of these people are the parents of the kids playing in these games. GMC Hoops thinks it would be best if we play on the side of safety.